According to an article in the September 2002 issue of Pediatrics, “smokers are typically portrayed as attractive, successful, and influential … often with sexually suggestive content. Rarely is smoking portrayed in an unattractive manner or associated with negative consequences.” Does this really make a difference?
The study went on to find that children ages 10 to 15 who watched 5 or more hours of TV per day were 6 times more likely to start smoking than their peers who watched less than 2 hours. Those who watched 4 to 5 hours were more than 5 times as likely to start smoking. This strong, direct, TV-dose to smoking-risk relationship held up even after other risk factors – income, intelligence, parents’ education, etc. – were taken into account.
Decreasing TV viewing may decrease the risk of smoking – but the tobacco messages are everywhere. A recent review of 81 G-rated movies found tobacco use in 43 percent of them. If we let children watch, we owe it to them to comment on what they see.